Do you work long past quitting time or answer emails on the weekend? Or worry a lot about work even when you are not on the job?

Now, certainly it is important to perform well at work. Losing a job is serious stuff. But scratch the surface of these behaviors and many people report excessive worrying about how they are perceived at their job.

They may put in long hours hoping to get a bit of praise from a boss or client. Or they may labor diligently to avoid making a mistake and earning a reprimand.

Certainly, good quality workmanship is not a negative. But this striving for approval or avoidance of disapproval can be seen as an effort to avoid experiencing shame. This may indicate a lack of self-acceptance and the poor shame tolerance that results.

If you are overly focused on gaining a feeling of approval from your work environment, it may be that you are overly needy for that approval because you are not giving it to yourself. You may be seeking emotional fulfillment and validation through work, rather than through interpersonal relationships — where you should be seeking it.

I experienced this myself in an interesting fashion. Before I was a psychologist, I was a freelance journalist. This job had many benefits, such as working from home, not having a boss, and flexible hours.

But one downside was the nearly complete lack of feedback from clients. Once I wrote something I rarely heard much about any reaction. And despite being very independent and not a needy type of person, I believe this weighed on me — largely because I was lacking in self-acceptance at that time in my life. As a result, I felt slightly resentful or easily irritated by clients for very little reason.

Once I gained self-acceptance, these experiences completely changed.

I had the same irritating experiences and unresponsive clients, but I enjoyed my job much more. The only thing that had changed was my ability to give myself approval and compassion. So I was no longer looking externally for that validation. I did not rely on my job for a feeling of emotional satisfaction and connection. I had connected with myself in a healthy way.

I knew I was a good person, irrespective of my performance on a project for a client. I did not hope for that positive feedback to affirm my self-worth.

I see this issue arise with couples. Let’s say the husband may be a workaholic. The result? The relationship becomes distant and lacking in warmth. But it is more than just his long hours or his head in his laptop. He is looking outside the relationship for emotional connection and “intimacy,” rather than toward his wife. She senses this disconnection and distance and feels hurt and unimportant to him.

Learning self-acceptance and mindfulness is the way forward to an improved balance in life, improved relationships, and reduced work “stress.”

…be kind to yourself


What Causes Perfectionism and How It Is Healed by Self-Acceptance

What Causes Fear of Failure

How Do You Handle Shame?

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